These days, it seems like your avenues of self-expression are limited, if you’re a law enforcement officer. You’re not allowed to pose for photos with Snoop Dogg, and—as a handful of El Paso police officers learned—you can’t even shoot a music video for your favorite Canadian rock song. At least not using department equipment and uniforms.

Several El Paso police officers shot a music video for the song “Born to Rise” by Canadian rocker Redlight King. As the El Paso Times reports, they soon found themselves “admonished” (no word on if that’s a more or less severe punishment than the unofficial mandatory counseling that the DPS Deputy Dogg who posed with Snoop received) by superiors for using equipment from the department to construct their artistic vision: 

El Paso police officers featured in a music video have been admonished not to do it again, department officials said Friday.

Officers in uniform are shown driving department vehicles in a video named “Born to Rise/El Paso Police Music Video” featuring music from the Canadian rock group Redlight King. The video was posted on YouTube last month.

“Basically, we do have policies in place that restrict an officer’s ability to utilize any equipment for personal use, which is a very minor infraction,” El Paso Police Department spokesman Detective Mike Baranyay said. “When you look at the scope of officer off duty misconduct using equipment to produce something such as this, which is obviously a prideful compilation of his career and the other officers depicted in it, there wasn’t anything malicious in the video. They (officers in the video) were just doing something really as a morale booster.”

It sounds like the admonishment they received was restricted to a “don’t do that again, you guys,” which seems about right for the infraction. And it makes sense—presumably the taxpayers want those vehicles to be patrolling the streets, not setting up the shot—but it’s also kind of sad to think of the officer with a song in his heart and a vision in his mind’s eye, proudly paying tribute to how cool he looks pulling his gun, taking a perp in, or navigating the winding mountains of El Paso, only to learn that he’s in trouble for it.

On the list of things we don’t want our police to do, in other words, “making a kind of silly music video about how awesome they are” is pretty low, even if it does use some equipment that belongs to taxpayers. 

As the Times also notes, this wasn’t the first time EPPD got involved in the music video game either. Back in 1992, the department recorded a rap song—this time officially sanctioned—urging El Pasoans to resist the temptation to join gangs and shot a video to help articulate that vision. That song, “Think Twice,” is—how to put this gently?—somewhere below “NFL offensive linemen record a rap song together” on the scale of hip-hop freshness, even adjusted for the prevalent style of the early nineties. (Opening line: “I’m not Vanilla Ice / This ain’t no 2 Live Crew / But we’re gonna do a little / Rap for you”.) 

As a time-capsule treasure, though, “Think Twice” is a gem. Time will tell if “Born to Rise” has that kind of staying power—though would it have killed the EPPD officers behind it to write their own song? Still, the real lesson here is, if you want to express yourself while wearing a badge, apparently you’d better get department approval first.